Trial and error

Gatherings of expats invariably lead to one conversation topic, things you wish you’d done and things you wish you hadn’t.

These aren’t confessions of the stag/hen night variety, but wistful glances back at the process of moving to Australia and learning some lessons of relocation the hard way.

So, for today’s post, 18 months after our move, I’ve put together a list of the best and worst three decisions we’ve made in our journey to a new life down under.

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Intrepid explorers

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The first of many trips laden with boxes.

Last week, we moved home, and what with several days of lumping boxes around and a hiatus in our internet connection while Telstra pressed a few buttons at their secret underground mission control bunker, it’s been longer than usual since my last post.

It feels good to finally bid farewell to our rented accommodation. It served us well while we found our feet in Australia but there really is nothing like having a place to call your own and I’ve taken great delight this week in banging in nails, putting up shelves and drilling holes wherever I feel like. Continue reading

Canberra’s energy inefficient housing

Let me start this by saying that I’m not an expert in environmental matters, but by adding that I am interested in environmental matters. I was an early adopter of LED bulbs back when they cost more than the light fitting you put them into; I set up a couple of compost heaps in our last house and reduced our weekly rubbish collection by a third; and I’m generally happy to invest in something that I think will reap longer term benefits either in efficiency or in reducing my environmental footprint.

So when we arrived in Canberra, I was interested to learn that every property is assessed according to an ‘Energy Efficiency Rating’ or EER. Our year in a rental house – which is freezing in winter, boiling in summer and generates energy bills that would make a sheikh weep – only served to heighten my interest in energy efficiency when hunting for a house to buy.

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Putting down roots

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It all happened very quickly, but last week we bought a house in Canberra.

So, we bought a house. There’s no way of tip-toeing around that one, so there it is. We bought a house.

As a new migrant, this is no small undertaking. There are the exchange rates to consider… are you cashing in your foreign currency at a rate that won’t make you fume in a few years time? There’s the fact that you have little credit history with which to support any mortgage application. You also have to familiarise yourself with a buying process that is rather alien, particularly if you buy in an auction. And then there’s the psychological question of: what does this really mean? Continue reading

The Canberra Weekly property section.

Dealing with Canberra’s undesirables

There’s quite a funny song that appeared on the British TV comedy show ‘Spitting Image’ many years ago, entitled ‘I’ve Never Met A Nice South African’ and it provides a suitable backdrop for the trouble I’ve had with writing this post.

Originally, this piece had an introduction along the lines of: “Every city has their undesirables and Canberra is no exception. In London, it’s investment bankers, in Copenhagen, it’s the hipsters, while in Canberra, it’s estate agents.”

But, just like the Spitting Image song, this sweeping claim troubled me. For the record, I’ve met plenty of lovely South Africans. I actually know an investment banker who’s a pretty good guy. And I even know an estate agent whom I believe to be ethical and principled.

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The symmetry of leaving

The cover of a book: Living In Australia, Beginner.

Perhaps we are ready for the next book in this series, Living In Australia Intermediate Level?

I’m in Denmark. Exactly a year ago, together with the rest of the CBRbound family, I was preparing to leave an empty house and follow a long-dispatched container of furniture on the long journey south from Copenhagen to Canberra.

We landed in Australia on Hallowe’en and overnighted at a Sydney airport hotel, where a tired and emotional maxi-CBRbound was too shy to say the words ‘trick or treat’ to the check in staff, even though a handful of sweets was on offer to every child who did.

The next morning, we took a final short flight to Canberra, to another empty house and to start a new life. Continue reading

Street names with a modern twist

A street sign indicating the turn-off for James Kirk Street.

Now that’s what I call a street name.

My early research into the housing market has turned up something unexpected yet entirely predictable as we investigate house prices and neighbourhoods in and around the Canberra suburb of Gungahlin.

I can’t decide whether it’s intentional or accidental, but it seems to me that the people in charge of naming Canberra’s streets have a pretty good sense of humour. Continue reading